Easthampton proposes relaxed rules for small-lot chicken owners

The Daily Hampshire Gazette, January 8, 2018, by Caitlin Ashworth

When it comes to raising backyard hens, obtaining the required special permit can be costly and a hassle.

To fix that, the city council’s ordinance subcommittee has proposed changes to an ordinance on the keeping of chickens to elevate costs — striking the requirement for a special permit for lots less than 15,000 square feet.

Fees for submitting a special permit stack up to around $500. Lots over 15,000 square feet do not need to seek a special permit.

A resident hoping to raise chickens on their property approached the Council about the issue, according to Councilor James “JP” Kwiecinski.

Kwiecinski said the resident had an enclosure was the required distance away from neighbors, so disturbance would not be an issue. The city requires six hens or less to be kept in an enclosure 50 feet from the street line and 50 feet from neighboring homes or buildings.

“We must be mindful of our neighbors,” Kwiecinski said.

But since the resident’s lot is less than 15,000 feet, he said, they would need to apply for a special permit.

To submit an application to the Planning Board is $100 and to the Zoning Board is $150, according to the city’s small business permitting guide. Two legal advertisements must run in the Gazette, which costs approximately $200. Additionally, the applicant needs to file the special permit decision with the Hampshire County Registry of Deeds, which costs $75, according to the city.

The process for zoning approval can take up to four months and requires the applicant to notify adjacent properties’ owners.

Since the ordinance relates to zoning, the proposed changes will be discussed and voted on in a joint meeting with the Planning Board and Ordinance Subcommittee before a public hearing is scheduled with the full City Council.

The council also added to the ordinance that fenced chicken run must be well-drained, floors and walls of a coop must be clean with all droppings collected at least every week, and droppings need to be kept in a secured container until disposed of off the premises.

Caitlin Ashworth can be reached at